A Guide to Balance Bikes

A Guide to Balance Bikes

22 Feb

Learning to ride a bike is an important skill that every child should learn. Pure and simple fun, riding a bike keeps kids physically active, benefits their mental health and learning, builds muscle mass, boosts confidence, strengthens emotional wellness and enhances social skills.

When to start teaching your child on a balance bike

Children can start riding a balance bike when they’re around 18 months to two years. We suggest a balance bike, because they are generally much safer and more practical than tricycles and training wheels. With a balance bike, your child can learn how to balance and steer a two-wheeler without the complication of pedalling and taking their feet off the ground at the same time.

Kids generally ride balance bikes for two to three years, depending on the age they start. The younger they start the longer they will ride their balance bike.

If you do choose a steel bike and training wheels, you may need to wait a bit longer to get your child started, as navigating both balance and pedalling takes a good level of cognitive function. Kids have to exert a lot of energy to go far on a tricycle and the math is complicated. That’s why so many tricycles come with a push bar - kids simply get too tired to ride long-distance without assistance.

Benefits of a balance bike

A balance bike is a two-wheeled bike without pedals that teaches toddlers to balance on two wheels. After a brief learning period, your child can learn to ride, jump and coast on their bike with no assistance. Balance bikes are designed especially for little learners and the best balance bikes are generally lighter than small wheeled bikes and carefully adapted to suit small hands and bodies.

On a balance bike, your child focuses on balances and not pedalling. As a result, they’re more prepared for an unexpected loss in balance and are much less likely to fall. Your child pushes the bike along with their feet and once they’re more confident they can push, then glide - lifting their little legs up to make the most of the momentum gained.

Balance bikes ride like regular bikes and don’t get stuck on uneven surfaces. They glide easily over rocks, dirt, curbs and jumps and many can be used both indoors and outdoors. Being so versatile, they’re sometimes referred to as glider bikes, strider bikes, run bikes or pedal-less bikes.

What to look for in a balance bike

A balance bike should be lightweight and offer the perfect combination of low seat height and low centre of gravity, allowing your child to find success at a young age. Proper seat height should have your child sitting on the saddle with feet flat on the ground and a slight bend in the knees. For long distance striding on smooth surfaces, you can adjust the seat slightly upwards.

If you’re planning on allowing your child to practice indoors, we recommend our Wooden Balance Bike with bonus wooden bike stand and detachable wicker basket. The rubber tyres and soft handlebar grips help protect against damage to walls and furniture, and offer a restricted steering head and foam inserts to prevent overturning and to protect fingers. You can even personalise the bike with your child’s name to enhance their relationship with their bike.

The bike comes in pink, white or aqua.

If you prefer something a little more retro, our cute Wooden Vespa Balance Bike is an ideal first bike for your toddler. Super sturdy yet incredibly light, it comes with a tan leather-like padded seat, rubber tyres, rubber handle grips and restricted steering to prevent oversteering.

Want a balance bike but with the sturdiness of three wheels? Our 2 in 1 Wooden Trike/Balance Bike will grow with your child’s development and size, making it suitable for children aged 18 months to five years.

How to use a balance bike

There are four steps that most riders go through when learning to ride a balance bike.

1. Stand and walk

When first exploring their new balance bike, your child will typically stand over the bike frame and walk the bike as their first steps. They don’t even try to sit on the saddle, and may resist if you try to push them to sit. How long this phase lasts is dependent on your child, with some learning to sit in one session, while others will stick to walking their bike for a few months. Follow your child’s lead and allow them to explore the balance bike at their own pace. For kids slow to progress, provide plenty of opportunity for them to ride.

2. Sit and walk

Once sitting on the bike, your child’s excitement for riding will likely grow. Before long they’ll advance to the sit and run stage, understanding that in order to go fast they need to run instead of walk. The best thing you can do to encourage this is to have your child around other children more advanced on a balance bike - their competitive nature will do the rest.

3. Sit, run and balance

It’s during this phase that your child starts to master balance. Most will figure it out on their own but others may need a boost from either more advanced children or a video. There are plenty of ‘how to’ videos on YouTube.

Sitting, running and balancing is generally the shortest stage, with adventurous kids quickly transitioning with access to open space.

4. Sit, run, glide and explore

The glide is the last stage of balance bike mastery and the most fun of all. Kids naturally pick up their feet as they are gliding and once mastered, they’re open to anything. Skateparks and bike jumps, single-track trail riding, pump track… the world is their oyster!

If your child needs a little help in the gliding department, have them roll down a driveway or grassy hill.

Transitioning from a balance bike to a big bike

With the skills learned on a balance bike, your child can transition to a regular bike from as young as three years old. That said, don’t rush them off their balance bike. Let them enjoy their balance bike until they express a desire to upgrade to a bigger bike. A balance bike isn’t just a tool to get your child to learn to ride a ‘real’ bike - it’s a great ride in itself!

If your new ‘ big kid bike’ is heavier than your child’s balance bike, consider removing the pedals and getting them to start just as they did with their balance bike. You won’t be able to remove the entire pedal, but enough for them to scoot around with their feet to the side as they are used to.

Once used to the extra weight, screw the pedals back on and watch them go. No need for training wheels!

Ready to shop for a balance bike? Hip Kids offers affordable prices, exceptional customer service, safety first and a great range of balance bikes available in a range of different colours. When ordering your balance bike, don’t forget the helmet too!

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